Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread Igloo - Daring Bakers Dec 2009

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

When I saw that the challenge for December was Gingerbread Houses I had two immediate thoughts. The first was, "What a fabulous Christmas challenge!" and the second was something along the lines of "BAHHH!!!" because I had JUST finished making my very simple, children-friendly mini gingerbread houses. A lot of my friends urged me to just save my mini houses and present them as my completed challenge for this month, but that didn't feel right. The whole point of those mini ones was their simplicity, and there was no challenge there for me. I wanted to be more daring! So I decided to have a little fun...
I struggled for the first week deciding what to do. I have mentioned time and time again that I am a messy baker, so I knew that I couldn't expect myself to come up with a delicate masterpiece or anything. Then Asian Gaga semi-jokingly said to me 'Make a gingerbread igloo!', to which I paused and then replied 'YOU ARE A GENIUS!'.
Now, I could have gone the lazy, more sane way about this and just done a whole piece of gingerbread moulded around a bowl. But where is the fun in that?! I was going to really make an igloo. From scratch. From blocks of gingerbread rather than blocks of ice. And it was going to work dammit! AND there would be little gingerbread eskimos! With furry collars! On sleighs!
My friends looked at me like I was crazy. They couldn't understand why I would attempt something so messy if I was already such a messy baker. But that's part of the fun of being a Daring Baker right? To challenge yourself to do something you wouldn't have done otherwise? So I plowed on with my plans, and though they weren't very well formed, I started. I used Y's recipe for the gingerbread, but I had a few issues with it at first. I think I must have added wayyyy too much flour, because the dough was super dry and wouldn't come together at all, but I've been in that situation enough that I didn't panic, and just kept adding water until it came together. I also split it up into about 5 separate portions, to make it easier to work with my hands and get the right amount of moisture in the dough. Even so, after being in the fridge overnight, the dough was like a rock, so I took it out and let it soften for a few hours before I started to work with it.
The dough wasn't too friendly to me, the scraps didn't take well to being re-rolled and so a lot of my little gingerbread tiles for the igloo had ugly cracks in them. But I wasn't too fussed, I'm not a perfectionist. Overall, the very firm gingerbread made it easier to carve into nice pieces that fit into the igloo, without having to worry about it crumbling. I did make the big mistake of leaving big gaps at the front, making it much messier-looking than the back, because I assumed I would be covering it up with the front 'tunnel' entrance. I stupidly did not think about the fact that the tunnel entrance would only go so high, so that is why it looks all wonky right above the entrance.
Y's Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
(from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas)
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]
(See end of post)
Royal Icing:
1 large egg white
2 cups icing sugar
1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight. (I had to add about 5 extra tablespoons of water, and even so the dough was still very stiff the next day)
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard. (I didn't need to do this)

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place. (I didn't need to do this either)
4. I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1 cm thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end. (I used a ruler to cut rows of 2cm x 3cm blocks)
5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. (I trimmed a few bricks to have edgest slanting inwards, to make it easier to fit them together as they started to curve inwards close to the top of the igloo) Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
Now, you can build up your igloo around a foil covered bowl if it makes it easier for you, but I only used the bowl to get a good idea of how many gingerbread tiles I would need to construct my igloo. Once I had the right size for my base, I removed the bowl because I was scared of it getting stuck to the royal icing and all kinds of drama trying to lift the igloo off the bowl later.
Beat egg white with an electric beater until soft peaks form and then gradually add the icing sugar. Put mixture in a piping bag and pipe royal icing along the edges of some gingerbread bricks and stick them together to form the base. Leave to dry until it is just set.
Pipe royal icing on one edge and the bottom of your tiles, and slowly build up your igloo, curving the tiles more inwards the higher it gets. Closer to the top it will be harder to make your tiles sit at the correct angle while the icing is still well, so I used a wooden skewer as a strut to hold it in place until the icing set. The more it angles inwards, the more you will need to alternate regular tiles with those that you have carved with the angled sides earlier. Any gaps are easily filled with more icing. When it gets to the top, it should be almost angled parallel to the floor you won't be able to fit another layer of bricks in. Cut a circle of gingerbread from the remaining dough that will fit in nicely at the top, bake and then cement in using royal icing.
To make the door, just glue together several pieces in an arch at the base of the igloo. You don't need to leave a gap for the entrance on the main part of the igloo if you don't want to. I actually removed a brick from the base after I decided where my entrance was going to be, which was risky!
Use the remaining gingerbread dough (there should be a bit less than half left) to cut out extra decorations for your igloo. I cut out some reindeer...
So that they could pull a sleigh which I built out of mini candy canes and some pieces of gingerbread. I tried to curve up one end of the base of the sleigh by baking it against the side of a baking tray but it wasn't very obvious once it came out of the oven.
I also cut out gingerbread men which I decorated with 'frilly' royal icing to make a fur coat, easily done using a small star tip on my piping bag, black food colouring for the face and I added some of the black to the royal icing for the body so they could have cute little grey outfits :D
I also added a couple extra bits, a sugar wreath for the entrance (which you might recognise from the mini gingerbread houses) and a gingerbread christmas tree decorated with green and white royal icing. I wish I had saved some of my christmas tree cupcakes to decorate this with!
I served it on a cake platter dusted with lots of icing sugar, which makes the perfect snowy setting, and even better if you accidently leave tracks in the 'snow' to make it look like footprints!
Thank you so much to Anna and Y for picking this wonderfully fun challenge for this month. I was so tired after constructing my igloo that I got really lazy with decorating it for the photos, so it's a fair bit uglier than I wanted. I wish I could redo it and move the entrance to the other side of the igloo where I had tiled the gingerbread much more neatly! But you get the general idea of what I was going for, right? :) Merry Christmas everyone!

P.S. For those who are wondering, I don't think I'll be eating it! I definitely should have added more water or butter to the dough, because it's very very dry and does not make great eating unfortunately :( But you might have better luck with the recipe than I did. However if you do want a gingerbread that I would definitely eat you can try the recipe for my other gingerbread houses!


  1. That's so awesome Steph!! I love it. A friend had suggested to me to make an igloo house after I had made mine (still yet to post). I love your photos on how you made it, they're very helpful.

  2. Your igloo looks so fun, yet challenging, which is the purpose of Daring Bakers, I suppose. Congrats on a gorgeous result.

  3. Steph, that is absolute GENIUS! :P Now apart from being the scone and slice queen do we need to call you the gingerbread house queen? :D

  4. OMG! So cute! I got all giddy when I saw the pics!! I wouldn't change it at all! Love love love it. When are you going to demolish this? I'd be happy to assist ;)

  5. I LOVE IT!!!! Great job on the igloo, it's so cute! I wish I made an igloo! :-)

  6. So cute ... and delicious. Can we see a photo of it demolished and eaten?

  7. My jaw dropped, this is just too goddamn amazing! I am totally in love with it! I want to marry it.

  8. Oh, this is adorable! So wintery and appropriately Christamssy =)

  9. omg so gorgeous :) i was actually joking to someone that with all these gingerbread houses, someone should make an igloo! I love the eskimo with his furry jacket lining (not to mention the gorgeous outfit itself!).

    i made gingerbread cookies this month and also suffered from generous flour dosage which resulted in dry dough. i ended up kneading in melted butter and voila problem solved. i always knew that butter was the answer to all my problems... lol

  10. omg, absolutely adorable! i am just amazed the igloo is completed with a wreath at the front "door" (?) LOL

    I think I have the same issue with the dryness. I just kept adding water until the dough is formed. It sure like a block of brick the next day!

  11. Positively, absolutely brilliant!

  12. This is super cute!!! Gingerbread igloo with gingerbread men and sleigh. I can imagine the fun you had fun with brick laying :) Very very well done.

  13. I smile every time I look at your gingerbread hosue. It just feels so happy. Congratulations! Your gingerbread eskimos are gorgeous....I'm still smiling as I think about them.

  14. Yay, I knew you would be able to pull it off, and it looks so freaking amazing! Every single bit of your gingerbread igloo is killing me with cuteness. Awww.....

  15. Oh Steph, doing an igloo is genius! What's even better, are those gingerbread eskimoes because they're so freakin' cute. I mean, they even have hearts on their clothing!

  16. Hee hee this igloo is so much WIN!!! Soo cuuttee love the Inuits and reindeer too ^^! hee hee

  17. this is too adorable! do you know your post is burning up the twitterverse? great job!

  18. You scared me posting this so early, but then I remembered the update.

    Really cool idea!

  19. Well done Steph! Really impressed (1) that you managed to make a second one when you already have a first one and (2) that your second one was such a creative idea!! It's so cute!!

  20. Oh this is ever so gorgeous. I love the fun you had with the challenge. My dough was a bit too tough too, but the microwave is a wonder machine!! LOL...Happy holidays!

  21. Wow this is SO CUTE! I love the reindeer and the eskimos and the sled and everything!! Can't believe you actually built the igloo out of gingerbread bricks - it's amazing! I love it :)

  22. Love your igloo! I did one too but did the "lazy way" but after so long of kneading I would take the more sane route over the other :P

  23. Wow, wow, wow a real masterpiece your igloo! Congrats!

  24. Just amazing! I adore you bricks - so fun =D.

  25. Wow! Seeing your igloo construction reminds me of the old "constructing the St. Louis Arch" videos I watched on field trips there. At the end they just had two tall legs built up ALLLMOST to one another, and they had to build a special 'capstone' piece to join the legs, just like your igloo. Architectural, and adorable!

  26. Hi Steph! I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year full of lovely sweet things! :D

  27. Your gingerbread igloo is fantastic! I love all the step-by-step pictures--so creative! :)
    Merry Christmas!!

  28. That is so cool! Love the "people" and the reindeer too. I almost made an igloo too but chnaged my mine at the last minute. Yours is so very precise, well done!

  29. Wow, great job! That igloo is amazing!

    Happy Holidays!



  30. This is absolutely incredible work!! I am seriously impressed with both the igloo and the sleigh. Well done!

  31. Love it! What a fantastic job you've done, I'd be pleased as punch if I managed to create something like that. Very cute ;0)

    Hop eyou had a good Christmas.

  32. Anita - Thank you so much! I loved yours!

    Belle - Haha I guess you're right :) Thanks!

    Lorraine - Heehe thank you! LOL not sure I would go that far! There are some absolute masterpieces out there!

    Betty - Hahaha Betty you are too cute. You can come help me, I don't think I will have the guts to do it myself!

    tonic - :) Thanks! Make one anyway, they're awesome!

    he needs food - Hehe I'm not's so solid I think I will need to take a hammer to it!

    Conor - Hahaha marry an igloo?! That's a new one :D But thank you!

    mademoiselle délicieuse - :) Thanks so much!

    Reemski - :D Thanks Reem!

    Helen - Ahh I should have used melted butter! Will have to remember that for next time. Thank you so much :) you're too sweet!

    billy - Haha every door needs a wreath at christmas! ;) I know it was rock hard, but it was workable after a couple of hours of warming up

    Elise - Thank you so much :) and for your tweet and linkback!

    Ellie - Haha it was half fun, half super frustrating because I didn't really have the patience for it! Thank you dear :)

    Angry Asian - Thank you! Hehe your blog name makes me giggle :D

    Marcellina - Aww thanks :D That makes me smile!

    Karen - Thank you Karen! And I knew you would be able to pull off your masterpiece too!

    Y - Hehehe Thanks! Of course they had to have hearts on their clothing! :)

    FFichiban - Hehe yay! Thank you thank you :)

    Little Miss Cupcake - Haha yeah that was crazy and unexpected! Thanks!

    Gala - Haha yeah the same thing happened to me when I first started seeing the postings trickling in. Thanks!

    Trissa - Aw thank you! I was so tempted not to do anything, but I didn't think that was in the DB spirit!

    Deeba - Thank you! Yeah I knew I wasn't going to make one of those beautiful neat ones so I just went a bit mad with it. Ooh microwave is a good idea!

    Jacq - :) Thanks!! Haha it wouldn't be an igloo without the individual bricks!

    Rochelle - Yay cool! Great minds think alike ;)

    Ramya Kiran - Thanks so much!

    Cirri - Thank you! Merry Christmas to you too :)

    zorra - Oh thank you! :)

    Lauren - Haha thanks :) It was a fun challenge!

    E. Lee - Hahaha that sounds cool! Yep the one at the top made life easier :)

    Lorraine - Same to you Lorraine! Happy Holidays!

    Jill - Thank you! I always love to do the step by step photos so I remind myself that I actually did it haha!

    shaz - :) Thank you! I loveeedd your idea, it crossed my mind as well but I had no idea how to accomplish it! Great job!

    Rosa's Yummy Yums - Thank you so much! And same to you!

    Angela - :) Thanks!

    Chele - I am glad I managed to finish it, I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to do it in my head! Same to you!

  33. what an absolutely awesome idea and great job with it too. it looks stunning!

  34. Oh wow. Your gingerbread house is fantastic. Great idea to do an igloo house instead.

  35. Gingerbread perfection, from the igloo to the reindeers to the photos. Happy New Year!!

  36. Tia - Thank you!

    Jo - :) Thanks! It was so much fun to do!

    Lisa - Aww shucks! :) Thanks so much! Happy New Year to you too!

  37. Wow, Your gingerbread house is just amazing
    Very original shape, and I really love the beautiful decoration!
    Wtg for the fabulous job!
    (also a DB)

  38. What a creative interpretation. I want to make one. I might not even wait until next year. Thanks for the to-do's in order to succeed at this building attempt.

  39. fairy_mi - Thanks so much! Hurray for another DB :)

    fruitfulworks - Make one make one! I always try to do construction photos, but it was tricky with this one!

    Fiona - Haha thanks!

  40. This is AMAZING! I'm going crazy looking at all of your darling baked goods!


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